Teleconference: Sam Hornish Jr

Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the No. 6 Dallara-Honda for Marlboro Team Penske, was this week's guest on the IRL IndyCar Series teleconference after claiming his third championship title yesterday in Chicagoland.

Q: Sam, congratulations on a great season. Tell us what it feels like to be the first three-time champion in the IndyCar Series.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: It feels pretty good, I can tell you that much. Especially being the only two-time champion, then going into this season knowing we were going to have an opportunity to battle not only for the Indianapolis 500 win but also for the season-ending championship. I kind of looked at it, I know who I'm going to be battling. Sure enough, we get down to the end of year, it is the three guys I think I am going to be battling. Two of them already have one championship. I thought the worst thing that could happen is one of them could win because they're multiple champions, then I don't have that thing to myself.

I did put myself a little distance out from those guys. Hopefully I'll be able to hold that record for a little bit longer anyhow.

Q: How does this championship compare to the first two?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Each one is special in their own way, that's for sure. The way I look at it, we've had great opportunities. I feel very lucky that I've even been able to win one, let alone three.

But this one, you know, it was definitely very special to me because of the fact of how hard-fought it was, how the season ended up, winning the 500 during the season, and just the fact of how much competition there really was.

Q: When you think about the championship race itself, was there a defining moment at some point in the season that really is the key now as you look back to really putting you in that championship position?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, there was one thing that I know that really made it hard for me to win the championship, and that was the Michigan race. I know it's probably a little bit opposite of what you're thinking. This is the thing that I think made the championship as close as it was, the fact that our water pump breaking at Michigan. I think we would have had a really good opportunity to win the race there. We led quite a few laps right at the beginning, then we had the problem. Allowed everybody to catch right up in the points. I think if we didn't have that problem there, we probably would have had a little bit more breathing room going into this championship.

Q: You've been kept pretty busy after the race last night, had a bunch of things going so far today. Have you had a chance to celebrate yet or is that still coming later?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I got the rest of my life to celebrate, I guess. I'll just keep doing all the things that they have for me to do until they're done, then I'll try to relax a little bit.

Q: As you were looking at the checkered flag coming out of Turn 4, what was going on in your mind?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Actually, I didn't even look at it. I was trying to figure out a way to get around (Scott) Dixon. I didn't want to get too close till the last couple laps. I kept having the voice in the back of my head telling me that, ‘Sam, all you got to do is finish third.’ I kept getting up there trying to win the race as much as I could. Roger would call me back down, I'd move back a little bit. Took a lot of patience yesterday. I figured I'm close enough to the finish line now, I can try to get around him.

Q: With all the records you hold, the accomplishments you've had at a relatively young age, where do you fit in the history book now of American race car drivers? Where is your place?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. Hard to say. Hopefully I'm cracking into the top 100, somewhere in there, that might even be a little high up on the list.

Q: How do you think you'll be remembered? Granted, you have a long way to go. How do you think your career is going to be remembered at this point?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I hope it will be remembered for the positives. There's a lot of drivers that achieve things in their careers, either race too long, people say they should have quit before that time, have problems later on. I hope that I continue to do the right things, I'm looked fondly upon at the end of everything.

Q: What's left to prove for you in this series, in your mind? What do you have to motivate you in this series now that you've accomplished so much?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I'd still love -- I want to win some more 500s. That's the big thing. I've got three more to go to put myself anywhere near Rick Mears.

Q: The possible ARCA test, the Busch Series stuff, where does that stand, how will your schedule unfold with that in the fall, if at all?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Right now we're just really focused on IndyCar stuff. We want to continue doing that throughout the year. We said we would talk about it at the end of the season. I guess we're there now, but haven't had that good of an opportunity to sit down with Roger (Penske) and figure out what our plan is.

With the IndyCar Series being consolidated down into a short amount of months, having the opportunity where I can probably run 10 to 12 races, whether they be ARCA, Busch or whatever in my free time, it gives me that opportunity to go out there and to have a little bit more practice time, little bit more seat time, keep my skills sharpened up. We don't have anything in stone yet, don't know what we're going to do for sure. We're just kind of waiting to see how everything unfolds.

Q: Do you think you had enough left in your car to go around those two?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think we had the opportunity to go and challenge for it. Every time I'd sneak back up there, Roger kind of told me, ‘Hey, all you got to do is finish third here.’

I feel that we had a little bit of something for them, but we didn't have -- it wasn't going to be an easy pass. Roger kind of kept telling me, ‘Hey, Sam, all you have to do is finish third here, you've got it in the bag. Don't make any mistakes, don't let them get together and take you out of the race. Kind of sit back and watch it.’

On one hand, the racer in me wanted to get up there. On the other hand, I know when Roger has a feeling about something, it usually turns out he's right in the end. I figured I'm going to listen to Roger, hang out here, see what happens. If we got to finish third, that's what happens.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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